Kittleson’s Corner: Fatbergs

Posted on February 25, 2017

Welcome back to Kittelson’s Corner my weekly musings on things I think are interesting or important, especially in local government nerd-dom.

I have been trying to think of a government joke for like three days so I could use the below GIF and embarrassingly I have come up empty. But I know that I make this face at work at least once a day (maybe more depending on the meeting). So tweet me your bad government jokes that would make Ben Wyatt do this:

Alright, let’s go.

What I Read

From $37 to $339,000: Why the Price of Public Records Requests Varies So Much

I thought this was fascinating. The variance of what local governments charge for public records is astounding. The example in the article’s title is literally for the same public record, a local newspaper asked for a batch of emails from a Sheriff’s Office in Florida over a five month period one county said it would take four years and $339,000 and another said $37…

The article spends the most time on police body cameras, since the technology is still so new and the requests require concealing the identity of bystanders. But I am sure the same variation exists for any public record. In the GovLove episode I did with Kate Queram of the Greensboro News & Record one of her complaints was that she had less access to public records in Guilford County than she did covering a small town on the North Carolina coast. She told me that requests she made her first week on the job, still hadn’t been filled.

Some variation between jurisdictions is understandable, not all places have the same staffing level or technology, and there will be variations between states just based on how each legislature has defined public records. However, local governments everywhere should strive to be more open after all, this is the public’s information.

Are flushable wipes really flushable? Raleigh says no

In case you’re like me and never think much about what happens to the stuff you flush down the toilet, you may not have realized that there is a battle raging between the wastewater industry and the companies that make “flushable” wipes. Essentially bathroom wipes that are marked as “flushable” actually aren’t, they stay together long enough to combine with other stuff in the sewer system and cause blockages or breaks.

In D.C. the CEO of their water system, George Hawkins (friend of the pod & ELGL17 speaker) worked with the city council to ban the use of flushable wipes. He also summed up the policy of what should go down a toilet as the catchy 3 P’s: Pee, Poop and (toilet) Paper.

Also, this article covers the term “fatberg” which is disgusting, so don’t google it if you’re eating. The term is a cleaver play on iceberg, but it’s made of fat that gets into the wastewater system and sticks together. These fatbergs then combine with things like non-flushable wipes that don’t dissolve in water and become this disgusting hardened mess that clogs and breaks sewer lines (The 10 ton fatberg that broke a London sewer). Anyway, don’t pour oil or grease down your drain, just don’t do it.

One of the departments I have at Durham is our Water Management department and it’s been really fun to learn about all that goes in to supplying clean water to residents. I haven’t gotten a tour of the wastewater facility yet but now that I’ve read this article I will be able to ask all the tough questions.

What happened when factory jobs moved from Warren, Ohio, to Juarez, Mexico

This was well worth the long read. The article examines the impact of a factory relocating on the city it leaves and the city it’s chosen to move to. In the debate over free trade we often assume that the jobs that leave just set up shop somewhere else. But in reality the jobs that left the rust belt and many places are not the jobs that are now in Mexico. In light of our new found debate over trade policy it’s important to get past the talking points and to the reality of the situation.

What I Listened To


So all week in North Carolina it has been in the 70s and sunny, it’s felt like summer. I sat on a patio twice after work, sat in the sun and worked on a PowerPoint during work. It’s been lovely. Naturally my soundtrack to unseasonably warm weather was Jimmy Buffett. Just hit play, thank me later.


I caught part of this Fresh Air episode on the radio last week and wanted to hear the whole thing and it was definitely worth it. I didn’t know much about James Baldwin really until people compared Ta-Nehisi Coates to him and he really fascinates me. There’s a new documentary out about Baldwin that I really want to see and that’s the focus of the Fresh Air episode but they also play an old interview of his from the 1980s, it’s a really good listen.

More women taking lead in local government

Love this article from the Citizen-Times in Asheville, NC! More women are becoming County Managers in North Carolina. Out of the 100 counties in North Carolina, only eight were led by a woman in 2014 and now there are 21. That’s great progress, obviously the work isn’t don’t yet but definitely an encouraging sign.

There are some great day-in-the-life anecdotes in this article, but I loved the windows into what it’s like leading small counties and towns in the western part of the state as a woman. There’s this quote from Summer Woodard the town manager of Franklin, NC:

“Our public works director, one day, we were out looking at projects and he said, ‘I guess I never had to ask other managers what kind of shoes they have on today,’” she remembered. “I said, ‘I have on heels today, but I can go change.’”

This is awesome from Jaime Laughter the manger of Transylvania County:

“My perception – and I think a lot of women’s perceptions –  is this is not a family-friendly career field,” she said. “I found that local government service in general is a family-friendly career field, partially because the same things that make you want to raise a family and be invested in a family makes you want to improve the community and the world at large.”

Anyway you should read the whole article. It’s really great.

Tweet of the Week

So my parents watch Jeopardy religiously, every weeknight at 7:00 pm Alex Trebek would come on their TV screen with exclamations of daily doubles and answers posed as questions. Well this week Jeopardy made the jump into hip-hop and thank god. Alex Trebek rapping Drake lyrics, Kendrick Lamar and more makes me so happy. Check it out:



Wait! One more thing…

A small town in North Carolina voted to dissolve itself! Check out the story of Centerville, NC home to 89 people and the provider of street lights (yep that’s it). The Town Council didn’t vote to charge a property tax and as a result they don’t have enough money to run the town, so they voted to dissolve it.

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